I was listening to Yo-Yo Maand Chicago Symphony Orchestra members perform a chamber concert in Pilsen recently, and the audience applauded between movements of a Brahms Quintet, and I thought: This clapping is more pleasant than the coughing outbursts that fill every silence at Orchestra Hall.
That got me thinking about how at opera and jazz concerts people applaud after arias and solos, and that prompted me to write a story exploring the traditions and conventions involving when to clap. It also asked the key question: Should these rules be relaxed or enforced?
What was especially interesting to me was the reader response, which covered the gamut. Some people wrote that they felt they should be able to show their appreciation whenever and however they like. Others argued that the music — the art — deserves reverence, and people’s ill-timed applause is a sign of a lowering cultural bar. One woman blamed the composers for writing rousing finishes to movements and then expecting the audience to sit on its collective hands.
The way we receive art is so personal, it’s no wonder that people have so many different ideas of what the appropriate response should be. It was a lively, respectful debate that illustrated how much people care about music.
-- Mark Caro
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